An introduction into the philosophy of this site.
The mere ‘fact’ that you have found this website, and you are reading this page, tells me a few things. You are a curious sort, and one who may like to ‘tinker’ with tube guitar amplifiers. You are also probably as befuddled as I am by all of the surrounding hyperbole regarding what makes vintage guitar amplifiers sound ‘better’ than today’s offerings. Where do a lot of these old wives tales come from? Some folks pay no mind to the myths and misinformation (most are benign in nature), while others cannot ignore the ‘calling’ to challenge the snake-oil salesmen (regardless of how benign the misinformation is). I personally fall into the latter category. Why are these myths allowed to exist in the first place? I have a few theories.
- The typical modern ‘guru’ is admittedly self taught in electronics theory. Do I need to say any more?
- Even the ‘trained’ technician is at a disadvantage. Probably beginning in the 1960’s, tube theory was not a popular course to be taught in the school environment. I have a hunch that as solid-state crept into the curriculum, something had to yield to the almighty transistor. How about classes on magnetism and vacuum tube theory? They are, after all, ‘old’ technology.
- Because there aren’t many old tube-trained technicians left alive to dispute the myths, they are allowed to flourish. And the old tube technicians that are still around today probably have no idea what the Internet is, nor do they care.
- Because a lot of these myths are based on ‘bullshit’ theory, there is also no theory written to disprove them!
It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it!
For me, putting up this website serves a multitude of purposes. First of all, it gave me an opportunity to address the issues confronting my attempts to offer custom-built guitar amplifiers to the local players. While I am not the most gifted engineer, I still have enough horse sense to figure out that whether my cabinets are made of pine or poplar would have little bearing towards the tone of my amplifier. For some players though, because they read an article in a guitar magazine or on the Internet stating it does affect the tone, it must be true. Therefore, how could any guitar player shell out $$$ for my amplifier, when I refuse to house it in a pine cabinet? My thoughts raced towards a common question or two; ‘Is this true? Why didn’t I know about this?’ So, I’ve decided to investigate these stories for myself. I have discovered that since these guitar players seemed to be neurotic and gullible, it was very easy to spread all sorts of rumors in today’s information age. I paralleled this the children’s fable ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, and realized I would be pointing out that the Emperor was in fact pretty much in his birthday suit. I decided that I would offer some bedtime reading that would really give them something to think about. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to throw together a little website; the very original ‘Tales From The Tone Lounge’ seen on the ‘Geocities’ homestead. It was rude and crude, but it did the trick; the website gives my theories the appearance of being a collection of hard-researched facts (it is), and lends needed credibility. The hardest part (other than wallowing through the BS I found in magazine articles, books, and videos) was gathering my very scattered thoughts into a format suitable for your web browsing enjoyment. The challenge was on, and I was definitely up for it. Since I had a multitude of tube ‘mentors’ at my disposal, verifying theory points and technical issues seemed less formidable. These ‘old-timers’ had the background, and the savvy, to help me sort through the dregs of misinformation. As an avid collector of vintage electronics magazines, I would also have a plethora of articles and advertisements to assist me, and act as ‘backup’ to my beliefs and assertions. Keeping in mind there were also a multitude of books written supporting the theory that the Earth is a flat ‘disc’, I formed a simple criterion to determine whether a piece of information was of any use to me, and if its ‘truthfulness’ could be ascertained. Is the point of theory repeated in unrelated articles, written by unrelated writers?
- One man writing about the flatness of the Earth in 100 different magazine articles isn’t appealing, nor is 100 different writers submitting articles to one specific magazine. However, a handful of unrelated writers, penning their theories in a handful of unrelated magazines or books, is absolutely appealing. But, is it enough? No.
- Is there any type of experiment I can perform to verify the information? Is the experiment repeatable? Are the results 100% unvarying in their revelations? Keep in mind that some points of theory cannot be demonstrated, so other ways of confirming validity are needed.
- Can I clearly and simply explain why the piece of theory ‘works’? Just as important; can I clearly and simply explain why a myth is just a myth?
In the end, I believe I have achieved my goal. This website is full of information. Some of that information is aimed squarely at debunking some of the prevalent myths, while other tidbits are shared just to help you get a solid foundation on the ‘vintage’ philosophy behind tube electronics. I’m quite happy with the result. What I want you to do as you absorb each segment to this web site is have the following philosophy guide you. By having a good background in seemingly disparate areas, we can become not only a more well-rounded person, but we can debunk a great number of these myths single-handedly. If you are still young enough to have a lot of free time on your hands, evening classes in a multitude of areas is an investment you cannot go wrong with. I seemed to want to be a ‘Jack-Of-All-Trades’ early on, and this lead me years ago to take school courses in electronics, woodworking, sheet metal fabrication, upholstery, and a host of other vocations. I cannot over emphasize the benefits this can yield. Even if you choose not to have aday job doing plumbing, as an example, you meet enough people through your ‘training’ that they will be good contacts later on. I keep in touch with many of my old ‘classmates’, especially when I feel lazy, and I need plumbing work done! I also spent a fair amount of time during my twenties and thirties (and even into my forties!) working in various jobs; each seemingly unrelated, but having many common aspects. I have worked in sheet-metal fabricating shops, cabinet shops, TV repair shops, plastics manufacturing(!), and assembly-line production plants. I absorbed a great feel for how these businesses operated, and started to see that although these jobs may seemunrelated, they all shared a lot of common ‘roots’. You too can learn this, but I will save you the years of ‘grunt work’. You can learn from my teachings without leaving the comfort of your home. These ‘teachings’ will hopefully demonstrate the following. I use the name Leo here, but it could be the name of any successful amplifier builder from the tube amp era
- Leo was not in business to make amplifiers; he was in business to make money.
- Leo made money by mass-producing ‘affordable’ musical equipment.
- Regardless of what you may hear or read, Leo had to make his chassis with standard sheet metal procedures. No ‘cutting-edge’ technology here, such as using copper, or billeting the chassis from a single piece of aluminum. Leo was an old radio man, and his chassis reflected that.
- Regardless of what you may hear or read, Leo had to make his cabinet with basic woodworking philosophies, and common woods. I haven’t seen nor heard of a tweed Bassman made from Wenge, Parawood, or Eucalyptus.
- Regardless of what you may hear or read, Leo had to use ‘standard’ parts. No manufacturer I spoke with mentioned ‘auditioning’ tube sockets or wire. They bought what they could locally, and in quantities. Leo did not ‘invent’ speakers to use with his amplifiers; he bought common speakers available to him at that time. Importing Celestion speakers was simply out of the question.
- Regardless of what you may hear or read, Leo was just as swayed by advertising as everyone else. If he could read about a new speaker line, and the price looked good, he’d try it. Can you honestly say Leo ‘auditioned’ Oxford speakers, and said…. “Hey! These are way better than those flimsy Jensen speakers we’ve been using; let’s switch right away, Freddie!”? If you answered ‘Yes!’, you need professional help, and this web site cannot offer that kind of salvation.
The final thing to realize is that I am no smarter than anyone reading these pages. My observations are culminated from years of analyzing, and sifting through tons of information. I have also spent years working in seemingly disparate trades. What may appear to be completely unrelated to your search can often have ‘roots’ that go far below the visible surface, and these seemingly distinct areas (see above) can sometimes help shed light down an otherwise darkened path. As I helped my children with their school ‘Science-Fair’ projects, many times I caught myself ‘drifting off’, and thinking about how similar ‘basic principals’ applied to my guitar and amplifier. Try it for yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised. In fact, the very first thing we will do together is explore the local library, and put ourselves in a ‘vintage’ mindset. It sounds scary, but it isn’t. When you are ready, click on the ‘MENU’ above, and join me on a journey that for has lasted over 30 years!
‘These philosophies may seem unrelated, but do make for a more solid foundation.’
By clicking on the icon above, on some pages, you will be taken to what I call a ‘Startling Revelation?’. This will actually take you to scanned articles from vintage electronics magazine articles (no ‘guru’ written books allowed!) that may not seem relevant, or even related to our ‘search’. However, if you look at the big picture, and do a little investigative work on your own, the revelation could be nothing less than startling. Or, it could be a 100% waste of time. It is up to you to decide.
‘A link to Vintage Advertising’
On some pages, clicking on the icon above, you will be taken to what I call ‘Vintage Advertising’. These snippets from the electronics magazines of yesteryear will give you food for thought, as it were, and let you see how early manufacturers thought of and targeted their electronic parts and supplies to the TV/radio/audio industry. I will place additional ads as I get the chance to find and scan them. Enjoy! If you have a classic advertisement of your own, or anything else to do with this hobby and you’d like to share with everyone else, drop me an eMail.
It is a shame but in this strange world we live in, the following disclaimer is now a sad necessity.
As with all things ‘tube’ related, much of this information is old and may no longer be valid (it may never have been valid). The information supplied is accurate to the ‘best of my knowledge’. By using this information, you agree that I am not responsible for any injury, damage or malfunctions, real or perceived, caused through inaccuracies, errors or omissions in this data or in these articles, images and commentaries. The reader assumes all responsibility for the use of any of this information and therefore is solely responsible for any damages, injury and/or costs that may result. Use this information with care.
WARNING Tube Guitar Amplifiers can contain lethal voltage that can injure or kill, even when turned off and unplugged. Unless you have a full understanding of the dangers of working with Tube Technology and High Voltage Electricity you should seek out a qualified person to do the work on your behalf.